After Gareth Bale’s world-record wage offer from Jiangsu Suning broke down, which players make the top ten biggest earners around the world?
Gareth Bale looked set to become the highest earner in world football following the offer of a £1 million ($1.2m) a week wage at Jiangsu Suning.
Discounting bonuses, sponsorship deals and the like, it would have seen Bale leap up football’s high earners list, but the deal appears to have fallen through, alas.
With a number of high-profile signings around Europe already this year, that list has nevertheless seen a significant shake-up with some familiar faces dropping out of the top 10.
With further movement expected and wages shooting up every year, the list could well look very different in the near future.
Goal takes a look at the highest earners in football, based on annual salary.
10. Matthijs de Ligt & Frenkie de Jong – €16 million (£14.4m/$17.8m)
Following their high-profile exits from Ajax this summer, Netherlandsinternationals Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong are reported to be earning similar basic wages at Juventusand Barcelona respectively.
These figures will be inflated by different bonuses with De Ligt in particular in line to boost his wage with significant add-ons, should he meet performance targets after fulfilling his ambition of playing in Italy.
The pair just squeeze Bale – on his Real Madrid salary – as well as his new team-mate Eden Hazard and Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho out of the top ten.
9. Luis Suarez – €16.7 million (£15m/$18.6m)
Suarez turns 33 this year and may be coming to the end of his time at the very top level of the game, but he will have plenty of cash to set aside for his eventual retirement.
The 2018-19 season saw his worst return in a club season since his early days at Liverpool. He isn’t exactly a spent force, though – this relative downturn still saw him fire 25 goals in 49 appearances.
Closing in on 200 goals in all competitions for the Catalans, few would claim that Suarez hasn’t been worth the significant outlay the club have made to make him part of the furniture at Camp Nou.
8. Antoine Griezmann – €17 million (£15.3m/$18.9m)
While Antoine Griezmann’s transfer from Atletico Madrid to Barcelona is still likely to face some legal scrutiny, what isn’t up for debate is the wage hike the Franceinternational has earned from the move.
Some have suggested the move wasn’t as shrewd as it first appeared on Barca’s part. His tally of 15 La Liga goals was bested by seven players last season and, turning 29 this season, he is heading towards the end of his peak years.
But for a front three of Messi, Suarez and Griezmann – plus Neymar? – Ernesto Valverde has decided he is worth the risk.
7. Kylian Mbappe – €17.5 million (£15.8m/$19.6m)
The second-youngest player on this list after De Ligt, Kylian Mbappe turns 21 this season. With Paris Saint-Germain desperate to keep him and half of Europe’s super clubs desperate to sign him, it would be surprising if he is still as low as number seven in two years’ time.
Surely one of the heirs to Messi and Ronaldo’s Ballon d’Or throne, Mbappe’s remarkable statistics prove he is worth every penny of his hefty wage, with 39 goals and 17 assists in all competitions last season.
Whether French football will satisfy him for much longer remains to be seen.
6. Ezequiel Lavezzi – €23.1 million (£20.8m/$25.7m)
Whether the deal has been worthwhile is up for debate. Though he hit 20 goals in the 2017 season, he didn’t score at all in his first year and he hasn’t helped deliver any silverware to the club based in Langfang, south of Beijing on China‘s East Coast.
Lavezzi’s international career also stopped dead upon his move to China – but, having pocketed more than £60 million in basic wages since his move, he can presumably watch highlights of his 51 Argentina caps on a pretty large TV.
5. Andres Iniesta – €27 million (£24.3m/$30.1m)
Another former international star earning mega money in Asia, Andres Iniesta became Japan‘s best-paid player when he joined Vissel Kobe last summer.
Playing alongside former Barcelona teammates David Villa and Sergi Samper, as well as Germany‘s Lukas Podolski, the veterans haven’t necessarily proven the best acquisitions on the field.
Nevertheless, they seem to be enjoying themselves in Japan. After one of the most successful careers imaginable in football, the 35-year-old Iniesta can be forgiven for taking an extra payday at the end of his career.
4. Alexis Sanchez – €28.8 million (£26m/$32.1m)
If some of these players have question marks surrounding whether they have truly earned their wages, there is little debate surrounding Alexis Sanchez. In terms of performance against wage, he might well be the worst-value footballer of all time.
After gazumping Manchester City to bring him in during the January transfer window in 2018, Sanchez soon looked more like a monetary millstone around Manchester United‘s neck rather than a sign of better times to come.
At 30 years old, he still has time to find some form at Old Trafford. With five goals in his first 45 appearances, the bar isn’t set especially high.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo – €31 million (£27.9m/$34.5m)
And so, onto the megastars. Cristiano Ronaldo took a pay cut when he moved from Real Madrid to Juventus in 2018, but his wallet hasn’t suffered spectacularly.
Hailed as the signing to take Juve from European nearly-rans to champions, their Champions League quarter-final exit was a huge disappointment. Ronaldo did still score in both legs, so maybe with De Ligt joining him to shore things up at the back, this can finally be their year.
In all, Ronaldo scored 28 goals in all competitions in 2018-19. That was his lowest total in a decade, since the 26 he bagged in his final year at Manchester United.
2. Neymar – €36.8 million (£33.2m/$41m)
Neymar might not be the happiest player in the world right now, but he is certainly one of the richest. PSG made him the jewel in their crown as they looked to establish a new football dynasty at the top of the European game.
They haven’t gotten close to doing that yet, but their star man has more than pulled his weight. Fifty-one goals and 29 assists in two seasons have justified the outlay, though the accusation that he has gone missing in the Champions League still lingers.
PSG would rather not lose Neymar – it would represent a significant loss of face, and leave them needing to replace one of their top two players – but it would certainly free up the wage budget a little.
1. Lionel Messi – €40 million (£36m/$44.6m)
Lionel Messi turned 32 at the end of the 2018-19 season. Just before that, he racked up 51 goals and 22 assists in 50 Barcelona games.
He may be approaching the twilight years of his career, but he shows little sign of a waning appetite for success and with Barca rumoured to be putting together a new contract offer to keep him at the club until his retirement, these figures could yet still be going up.
Is he the best player ever? Maybe. Is he the best-paid ever? Certainly. For now, at least.